Aerospace icon Wally Funk stepped off her plane Monday at the Stillwater Airport Tarmac and was met with a cheering crowd, the OSU Band serenading her and three young girls who looked up to her.
“I was sitting on pins and needles trying to get here and then when I saw you all, whoo, oh my word you are fantastic,” she said.
Funk talked about what it was like to go to space with Amazon’s Jeff Bezos. She had wanted to go to space for most of her life, and she finally did.
“I sat there, we took off and it was fantastic. Now, I’ve taken off on a lot of jets and a lot of aerospace stuff and it felt just the same … so we get up there and Earth is disappearing...
"I was so happy to be up, but guess what, it was black up there. I was expecting to see Earth, but you had to go higher than that to see Earth,” Funk said. “We were there, big deal, three minutes and then get in our seats, get back buckled up and come down.”
Although Funk has established herself and made it to space at the age of 82, she wished she knew she needed an engineer degree to get up to the International Space Station.
“That’s what I’ve wanted to do all my life is to go to ISS … when I went to NASA … I didn’t make it because they didn’t have an engineering degree,” she said. “So, I’m telling all of you who want to make something of yourself, get that engineering degree and talk to youngsters that want to do things in space.”
Among the young people in the crowd cheering for Funk were Lilly Cribbs, 10, Vivien Ivy, 11, and Lila Hathcock, 6. They clung tightly to their homemade signs and waved them in the air, hoping for Funk to see them. She did.
"I want to go to the moon, go to Mars and invent something that can make us live in other places," Cribbs said. "And invent a cure for cancer."
Ivy said she just "wanted to fly an airplane" even though she has never ridden on one before.
"I want to be behind the controls and actually be in the air," Ivy said.
Both Ivy and Cribbs said they were inspired by Funk and wanted her to know if she could teach them how to fly an airplane, and take them to the moon.
Hathcock said she loves space and she was excited to see and meet Funk.
“I would say I like space and I can even show her this, my shirt can blast off and land,” she said.
Cribbs, Ivy and Hathcock not only met Funk, but were able to have their signs that welcomed Funk to Stillwater autographed.
“So, that was it guys, I love you all and thank you so much for coming out,” Funk said.